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Backwaters Cruising

Cruises on the UK inland waterways network

About Us

Backwaters Cruising was formed in 2017 to pioneer the development of cruise-and-stay holidays exploring the thousands of miles of lesser-scaled inland waterways across Europe which cannot accommodate large hotel cruisers. The Backwaters model uses the limited on-board space available on these smaller rivers and canals to operate as an air-conditioned “observation lounge”, where guests enjoy their cruise exploration by day and then return to a comfortable local hotel for the night.

Cruise ranges meander and we are slowed by locks, so we only average a gentle walking pace and travel no excessive distance. Guests usually stay in the same hotel throughout their holiday.

Backwaters Planned Departures - 2025

Cruising through North Wessex AONB with regular departures between May and October.

Over three consecutive days of cruising we explore 34 miles of the Kennet & Avon between Devizes and Newbury, with 36 locks along the way plus the summit tunnel at Burbage. We will stay 4 nights courtesy of Warner Hotels at the historic Littlecote Manor Hotel just outside Hungerford, so guests will also be able to enjoy the hotel’s leisure facilities and evening entertainment programme.


Lower Thames Cruise-only short-breaks with regular departures between April and October.

Three consecutive days of cruising take us along 58 miles of the Thames between Hampton Court and Caversham (Reading) with 21 locks to be negotiated along the way. Again we will be staying with Warner Hotels, this time at their new facility alongside the river at Runnymede-on-Thames.


Flowers on the Thames.

Warner Runnymede-on-Thames is also our venue for another exciting series of short breaks where we spend two days cruising the 40 miles of splendid waterway between Hampton Court and Marlow and enjoy an intervening day at one of the great gardens or flower shows. Departures throughout the season take us to Kew Gardens, NT Cliveden, the Savill Garden, and Hampton Court and RHS Wisley Annual Flower Shows.


Upper Thames Short Break and Blenheim Palace.

Staying at the Warner Heythrop Park, we spend two days cruising the river from its head of navigation at Lechlade downstream as far as Abingdon, 36 miles of serene waterway with 15 locks to pause our progress. An intervening day is then spent at Blenheim Place, with our June departures coinciding with the Palace’s annual flower show. Dates in June and October.


Through Pastures Green…

A short-break exploration of the western end of the restored Kennet & Avon navigation between historic Bath and the top of the remarkable Caen Hill lock flight at Devizes.

Two full days of cruising take us between Bath and Devizes via the Avon Valley, Bradford- on-Avon and Trowbridge, 18 miles of intimate waterway with no less than 39 locks and a scattering of lift and swing bridges to add interest and spectacle. We stay 3 nights B&B at the excellent 4* IHG Indigo Hotel, which occupies a Grade-1 listed terrace in the centre of Bath. Departures between May and October


The Quiet Waters By…

It’s back to the Hotel Indigo in Bath for a longer 6-night getaway including 3 days spent cruising the 34 miles of Kennet & Avon navigation between Bath and the summit pound at Burbage Wharf, with no less than 46 locks emphasising the undulating character of the Wiltshire Downs. We also include a day excursion to the Wye Valley where we visit Monmouth, Tintern Abbey and the Silver Circle Distillery and take a local cruise on the Wye out of Symonds Yat. A free day is included in the programme for guests to sightsee in Bath. Regular dates between May and October


Taunton Flower Show Cruises departing Wednesday & Thursday 30/31 July.

Two full days cruising the Kennet & Avon Canal between Bath and Devizes and including the remarkable Caen Hill lock flight, with an intervening day out at the annual Taunton Flower Show. We stay 4 nights B&B at the excellent 4* IHG Indigo Hotel, which occupies a Grade-1 listed terrace in the centre of Bath.


Exploring the Kennet.

A programme of 2-day cruises between Reading and Newbury staying 2 nights full board at the 4* Donnington Valley Spa Hotel situated just north of Newbury. We cruise 21 miles of the River Kennet, much of it along the eponymous SSSI which marks the Kennet as one of the UK’s most important chalk watercourses. Departures throughout the season, with a separate 3-night programme in April where we use the extra day to visit the Newbury Garden Show.


£795 for the Garden Show 3-nighter.

Thames Tranquility.

We stay 6 nights full board at the 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel riverside at Caversham, with 3 full days cruising the 53 miles of river between Wallingford and Old Windsor. Our two intervening non-cruise days take us first by train to Gloucester where we visit the Cathedral and National Waterways Museum before a boat ride on the Gloucester- Sharpness Canal; and then to the wonderful National Trust Cliveden Estate.

DeparturesApril to October

£1,445 to £1,775pp.

The Middle-Thames.

This eco-responsible short-break offers two full days of cruising the 34 miles across the Berkshire/Oxfordshire boundary between Reading and Abingdon, coupled with a 3-night B&B stay at the 4*Crowne Plaza hotel alongside the river in Caversham. Departures in June and September


Thames Explorer.

A 12-night holiday cruising the scenic River Thames upstream of Windsor all the way to the head of navigation at Lechlade. Six full days of cruising will be complemented by day excursions to Alton for Jane Austen’s cottage and a steam train ride on the Watercress line; an escorted train journey to Exmouth for a cruise on the River Exe; and a day out at magnificent Blenheim Palace and gardens. There are also two intervening free days for guests to explore privately or simply relax in-hotel. Such are the wanderings of this majestic river that the two end points of our 105-mile cruise range are less than 50 miles distant as the crow flies, so boat and hotel are never far apart and we stay throughout at the perfectly-situated 4* Crowne Plaza Hotel, alongside the river at Caversham.

Departures on 10 and 11 July, £3,575pp

Solo travellers may also need to budget for single occupancy supplement for the respective hotel rooms. Please enquire for further information.

Get in Touch

Please email for more information and to be added to the mailing list.

Backwaters will accept provisional reservations for next year’s programme with no deposit payable until guests are invited to confirm their booking around September.